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Kicking goals – how one Western graduate is helping The Matildas achieve world football domination

When The Matildas began their AFC Women’s Asian Cup, a Western Sydney University PhD student had a keener interest....

When The Matildas began their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign by hammering 18 goals past Indonesia on the first day, one Western Sydney University PhD student had a keener – and closer – interest than most.

 

 

Tim Massard, a Bachelor of Health Science (Sport and Exercise Science) graduate and current PhD student, is the Strength and Conditioning Assistant for the Matildas. Having played football from the age of five, Tim’s love for sport, combined with his interest in science, led him to pursue a Bachelor of Health Science, with a major in Sport and Exercise Science at Western. “It seemed like the natural merge of those two interests,” said Tim who truly relishes his role with the Matildas, further adding, “and it just seemed like a good career to try and work in.”

But Tim’s academic success wasn’t instantaneous. “In high school you have someone constantly demanding work from you,” said Tim, “but then as soon as you’re at university it’s a bit more self-driven and it takes some time to get used to that, you really have to be on top of your own work you don’t really have anyone to chase you up. That was probably the trickiest transition for me.”

The Bachelor of Health Sciences degree starts with core subjects, before students choose a Major and branch off to more specialised learning. On being asked if the core subjects have been relevant to his career, he said, “Looking back on my degree, the way that this profession works, it’s so multidisciplinary and being able to have a better understanding of the fundamentals of other health professions, at least having a grounding in it, is super important.”

Alongside working with the Matildas, Tim is also employed as a strength and conditioning coach at the Westfield Sports High School, a public school at Fairfield in NSW that is a centre for excellence in sport. “My PhD was a placed scholarship at Westfield Sports High,” Tim said. “I was placed there for two years as part of my PhD, and in 2021 I was employed by the School.” Tim has been impressed by the School’s professionalism. “The level of quality at Westfield Sports High is really, really high,” he told us. “The facilities – especially the gym facilities, would be the envy of professional sporting teams.”

It was through Westfield Sports High that Tim’s opportunity with The Matildas presented itself. Westfield’s Head of Physical Performance, Tony Wignell, is also the Head of Strength and Conditioning for The Matildas. “I developed a good working relationship with Tony,” said Tim, “and he would ask for my opinion, we would work away at stuff or he would have certain data and he would talk to me about how best to visualise it or present that. We did that informally for a couple of years, and then The Matildas said they wanted him to hire an assistant and he told them, ‘I have pretty much already got one’!”

Although Tim seems to be a natural for both his current roles, his path wasn’t immediately laid out after he finished his Bachelor’s degree. “I connected with Associate Professor Ric Lovell at Western, and I ended up doing postgraduate degrees with him as my main supervisor,” said Tim. “I was unsure which pathway would be the one that I wanted to pursue, but Ric’s advice was that if I did a masters by research I would get academic experience, but if I was clever about what research question I focused on and how I set up my research it would give me practical experience as well.”

It was a strategy that paid off for Tim. “I worked with state league football teams as their sports scientist, and then when I finished that I was still on the fence about which way I wanted to go, henceforth, I extended the experience and did a PhD program with Western and Westfield Sports High School, so I’m continuing to get experience in both the professional and academic realms.”

Tim was part of the Matildas’ support team for the Tokyo Olympics, an experience that was unforgettable. “It was disappointing to know we could have won a medal; we were so close but at the same time it was one of the first times we’ve really shown in a global tournament that we’re contenders,” said Tim. “In the past Australian footballers have been stereotyped as being really hard working but not being tactically very good. It’s much harder to teach work ethic, and I think now we’re starting to lift the technical and tactical side, and matching it to the level of physical prowess that we have.” Tim believes this bodes well for the Matildas’ chances in the coming years. “The fact that we’re constantly improving technically and tactically and we’ve already had a history of high physical capacity, it’s all starting to combine into hopefully peaking in the 2023 World Cup.”

The Matilda’s began their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign on Friday, 21nd January at 9.00 p.m. AEDT. Click here to have a look at their remaining fixtures. All games will be broadcast in Australia live and free via Network Ten and 10 Play.

Editor’s note: The Matildas’ journey in the AFC concluded with a quarter-final finish after a 0-1 loss to Korea Republic on 30 January, 2021.

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Paralympics 2020 – A peak into the lives of two WSU students post-Paralympic glory

The life of two WSU students who represented Australia at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics....

Paralympics 2020 – A peak into the lives of Two WSU Students post Paralympic Glory

Tim Hodge (left) & Gordon Allan (right)

Months after the Paralympic Games ended, W’SUP had contacted Tim Hodge and Gordon Allan, two students of WSU who represented Australia at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, to check in with their life after representing the country.

Hodge responded that while he feels good to be finally back home after a long campaign, his life has become chaotic with the many media and public appearance opportunities, whilst juggling his university studies and resuming training for Commonwealth Games and World Championships post the Paralympic Games.

Allan, on the other hand, mentioned the experience of his first-ever Paralympic Games has been great and he has been overwhelmed talking about it at the various media opportunities and podcasts which all feels new to him so he has just taken his time to soak it all in.

After being delayed by a year and only able to view it through screens, the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics saw massive participation with about 4,403 athletes from 162 nations competing for the medals.

Western Sydney University (WSU) was fortunate enough to have two students participate in the renowned games, cyclist Gordon Allan and swimmer Timothy Hodge, who were also part of the 174 Paralympics contingent of Australia.

It was a matter of immense pride for Western Sydney University as Hodge, coached by Clinton Camilleri, an alumnus of Western Sydney University, won three medals – a bronze in 100m backstroke and a silver in 4x100m medley and 200m individual medley, respectively at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Hodge and Allan are current Western Sydney University students studying Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science, respectively. Hodge’s coach, Clinton Camilleri, is a former student of WSU who has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management) degree. Hodge had previously represented Australia at the Rio 2016 Olympics and had won two bronze medals at the World Para Swimming Championships, London in 2019 and a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast.

Tokyo 2020 was Allan’s debut at the Paralympic Games, where he finished fifth and ninth in the Men’s time trial C1-3 classification and Mixed team sprint C1-5 classification, respectively. He had previously won a bronze at the 2019 Apeldoorn and silver at the 2020 Milton UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.

All three athletes spoke with W’SUP’s editor, Ayush about their time at the games. The trio spoke candidly during the interaction as they talked about their experience at the games, swapping kits with other nations, receiving souvenirs like badges and pins, cheat meals and their lives outside of sport.

Hodge had begun swimming as a method of recovery at the age of nine after his right foot was amputated.

“I learnt to swim and would swim regularly in the backyard pool,” Hodge said.

“As a 9-year-old, participated in a swimming carnival, then moved up to state competitions where I finished 5th, came back year after year and get kept on improving and getting better than the previous years.”

Allan attributes his interest to cycling after accepting a challenge from a friend of his as a young child.

“I started cycling as a really young kid but had shelved the bike for a few years and then got back into it again as an 11-year-old kid who was dared by a mate to ride the bike down a hill,” Allan said.

Camilleri’s journey to becoming a coach came after retiring as a professional swimmer and moving up from a casual lifeguard position.

“I was a swimmer myself and after retiring I became a casual lifeguard on the weekends and later moved into a coaching role with ‘Learn to Swim’ squads and just went on and on,” Camilleri said.

Due to the global pandemic, the Japanese government required all international athletes to undergo the necessary 14-day quarantine. While this could be stifling and boring for some, the three Australians managed to find different ways to pass the time. Ranging from Allan’s stationary bike delivered to his room to playing video games, the three men were well looked after.

Hodge has resumed his training and is aiming to return to the international stage in Paris 2024, where he hopes to improve on his results and timings from Tokyo.

Hodge also took the opportunity to express his gratitude to the University for all the support he received from the University community via social media messages and publications, adding that the sports culture at Western Sydney University is great and it was this support during his Paralympic journey that helped him get through the long period of training, preparations till he finally stood at the blocks to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics.

 

 

Ayush is an editor for W’SUP.

Tileah Dobson is an editor for W’SUP and the news and queer editor for the Sydney Sentinel.

 

 

 

 

 

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From refugee to A-league footballer

The success story of a player for The Western Sydney Wanderers....
Playing against his former club Spirit FC in the 2017/18 season. Photo: Nigel Owen
The success story of The Western Sydney Wanderers is the epitome of the new, indefatigable spirit that defines the Western Sydney region today. Bianca Exall spoke to one of the team’s professional players, WSU student Abraham Majok.

Born in 1998 in the Kakuma refugee camp of Kenya, Abraham Majok had anything but a pleasant upbringing and childhood. “My childhood was pretty tough to be honest. I moved out to Australia when I was roughly five or six years old. “Coming to a country where you are not familiar with everything, you have to learn a new language surrounded by different people,” said Abraham.

Growing up through his teenage years and maturing into a young adult in Western Sydney, the one thing that stuck with Abraham was his love for football. “I grew up mostly with my grandma … My mother put myself and my two brothers into the sport. I was roughly eight or nine years old  It’s something that I kind of fell in love with, the first time I started playing and watching others play. Something just struck within me that made me just love the sport more,” he said.

Abraham’s career progressed quickly. Debuting his career with Spirit Football Club in 2014, and playing for Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC since 2016, Abraham was given the opportunity to sign a two-year senior contract in May 2017 with the Western Sydney Wanderers FC after playing for the Wanderers Youth Team in 2016. Abraham says that there was no defining moment that motivated him to turn his weekend sport into a career, but there was a gradual process throughout his younger years to where he is today.

“From Mt Druitt, that’s when I got myself exposure because I played with the Wanderers Youth Team at the same time. I was training with them during the week and then played with Mt Druitt on the weekends. In that year, they invited me to start training with them,” Abraham said.

As professional athletes are at their level of peak performance before their mid-20s, Abraham pushed aside a full-time education to a pursue career in sport. “When the season finished, they offered me a contract and I just said to myself that an opportunity like this does not always come around so just take it,” Abraham said. “I just tried to bust my arse off and work as much as I can to try to push further and I ended up working hard enough to get a contract in the first place.”

Abraham says that throughout his teenage years, he never thought he could make it to where he is today as dreams of becoming a professional athlete do not always meet with their reality. Nevertheless, he says that he could not do it without the support of his friends and family. “Football for me was not a big major thing that I was always focused on … it wasn’t always a big priority to me. You come to the realisation when you are constantly told by your parents that not everyone makes it and that you got to have other things in life,” said Abraham. “But when you have people around you that support you a lot and friends and family that give you the motivation, that definitely does motivate you to keep pushing even when you just want to give up.”

Growing up around the world of sport, Abraham says that football has taught him values and lessons that he can take back into his life outside of soccer. “You tend to find that not everything has a happy ending in soccer because you don’t win every game you play. But you have to be humble enough to accept that, and still shake the opponents hand that just beat you, and in that way you tend to respect those people around you. It just teaches you how to manage your time, how to talk to people and how to communicate,” he added.

As football is essentially Abraham’s job, while training two times a day from Monday to Saturday this pre-season, he says that football is an escape from all things negative. “Soccer is not really stressful because to be honest, for us, it’s like a getaway from all other things. For us, it makes us think about something else that’s happening around us when we’re playing. “We never worry about anything else but the ball at our feet and just what we’re doing in that moment,” he explained.

Abraham has also been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to play soccer at an international level, something he would not have expected growing up.“I have always watched football from overseas. I just grew up in that sort of family household. Even when I played against Arsenal, it was so unreal because I was playing against guys that I have always seen on TV,” Abraham said. “I thought to myself, ‘Like wow, they’re right here’.”

Currently studying for a Bachelor of Business and Commerce at WSU, Abraham was inspired to further his education through part-time study. “I am majoring in accounting and started that degree in 2015 … my uncle was studying at the same university and got his master’s degree in engineering,” Abraham said.

Coming up to his last season contracted with the Western Sydney Wanderers, Abraham is continually focusing on improving his skills, while pursuing future goals and aspirations through education.
“My plans from here are to keep working hard, especially with soccer … and try to do as much as I can with university as well, to study hard and try to graduate,” Abraham said light-heartedly. “My focus is to work hard to get myself a second contract. I got a big year where I have to put in a lot of effort and to show the coach that I want to be here.”

 

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How a Blacktown kid is taking on Australian cricket

Born and raised in Blacktown, in the Western suburbs of Sydney, 19-year-old Ryan Hadley has set his stance in the Australian cricket scene. Ryan Hadle...
Born and raised in Blacktown, in the Western suburbs of Sydney, 19-year-old Ryan Hadley has set his stance in the Australian cricket scene.

Ryan Hadley was not always the six foot six upcoming superstar Australian fast bowler that people know him as today.

With only two years after graduating from Doonside Technology High School with school captaincy under his belt, Ryan delayed further education to focus on pursuing a career in his once weekend sport.

Before gaining himself a two-year rookie contract with Cricket NSW in 2018, Ryan received a lot of support from family and friends through his junior years of cricket that has significantly contributed to his success.

“I was always encouraged by friends and family to do what I want to do kind of thing and there wasn’t many rough patches growing up… I lived almost a perfect childhood and I wouldn’t change anything if I could, so I suppose that contributes a little bit to where I am today,” Ryan said.

Whilst making a life and career out of his beloved weekend sport is inspirational, it is also rare. Not every kid’s dreams and passions will follow through and lead them to do what they love.

“Like any kid, I started off playing in the backyard with my brother,” Ryan said reminiscently.

In 2005, being short of a player, the coach of Blacktown’s Under-10s (U10s) cricket team contacted Ryan’s parents, Cheryl and Graham Hadley to see if Ryan wanted to fill the team at six-years-old.

Eight-year-old Ryan Hadley (third from left) at a Blacktown U10s cricket game. Photo: Supplied.

“My parents were a bit hesitant, I was a fair few years younger than the rest of the boys but this coach was adamant that I’d be able to have fun, enjoy myself and do okay… Me and my brother were playing in the same team and my first year of cricket, I was only six but it was good to be able to play my first team sport with my brother … Like every Australian kid, it’s the dream of playing with your brother in the backyard then playing with him in a real game of cricket,” Ryan said.

Growing up in Western Sydney and playing for Blacktown since he was six years of age, Ryan is used to diversity.

“You don’t really realise it at the time when you play your indoor sports and you’re around all these cricket players but there’s heaps of people from all walks of life. I’m from Western Sydney, so that’s a different demographic to the people from the Eastern suburbs of Sydney and there’s completely different people at times,” Ryan said.

Hadley also played in age group cricket, state-wide and national competitions from an early age. He describes a clear timeline of what he has achieved through his transition from his childhood memories, his weekend sport and to where he is today.

“One day, one of my coaches suggested to my parents that I try out for the local representative’s team, so they get the best age group players in the area. I ended up making that in U10s and U11s and right through until the end of U14s. At that stage they start picking what’s called an emerging blues team with the Cricket NSW Academy,” Ryan said of his junior cricket days.

With a running streak of playing in an older age group, he was selected to play in the NSW U17s team. Since then, he was able to push through injuries that set him back and he worked harder to be given the opportunities that many young aspiring cricketers don’t experience.

“I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity when I was only 15 to train with the U17s NSW team and I managed to make that team until I got injured with a stress fracture in my back, so I was out for nearly a year,” Ryan said.

He has competed in two Under-19 state competitions with Cricket NSW along with playing for Australia against Sri-Lanka in the U19 Series in three one-day matches and a three-day test match.

Injury saw him miss his NSW Metropolitan U19 team mates’ win against the Cricket Australia XI team in the U19 National Championships Final in 2017.

“The year after that I made the U19s team, played with the U19s team a year after that when I was the right age, until I got a side strain in one of the games and missed the rest of that… Eventually after I got over my side strain, I was lucky enough to be picked in the U19s World Cup side,” Ryan said.

Given a taste of international cricket, Ryan Hadley had returned three wickets from his five matches against Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea, England, Afghanistan and India.

“We ended up coming second to India and I suppose that’s not what kicked things off but that’s kind of the peak of age group level cricket,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you learn from every injury. You learn about your body and how you come back from things and you learn about yourself more importantly,” Ryan said.

In May 2018, Ryan was recruited as a rookie for the NSW Blues. He has always been chasing his dream of becoming a professional cricketer, and as of this year, is confident that this contract is only the start of his career.

“I managed to earn myself a rookie contract with NSW so that basically classifies me as a professional cricketer. You get to do cricket as your work and not have to go to work Monday to Friday. You get to train or play cricket,” Ryan said.

He is also looking after his education and future career prospects by studying a Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science at university part-time.

“[I am] studying university part-time while trying to face the strain of being a professional cricketer because it’s only here for a certain amount of time and education can come and go whenever … It’s been quite a long time, about 12 years now so … hopefully it’s only the beginning,” Ryan said.

I never knew how important a sport could shape somebody’s world around them. I would have never thought that getting amongst the atmosphere in a team sport, with a group of people like yourself would lead to taking away valuable life lessons and skills you cannot get anywhere else.

Playing across Australia and New Zealand, Ryan has taken away valuable life lessons and skills from cricket that he cannot get anywhere else.

“You just pick up little things here and there and when you take that back into your life away from cricket you notice the differences between character … It’s taken up a big portion of my life and it has shaped my life in a way that nothing else has really, at all. It’s pretty special knowing that something that can seem small to some people that you play can turn out this big in someone’s life,” Ryan said.

Ryan reminisces about meeting his cricket idols as a child and what it meant to him.

“I had some incredible opportunities to meet my own idols from when I was a kid … Being able to meet them … You get a better understanding of what it’s like to be a professional cricketer and whilst it’s tough, it’s something that I’ve wanted to do and it’s just a stepping stone to the ultimate goal which is obviously playing for your country,” he said.

Whilst there are short term goals like staying fit and healthy, Ryan is looking at the big picture too.

“The long-term goal is to play for Australia and play test cricket for Australia, I think that every person in my position won’t stop trying to achieve that until they’re done, and their career is over … As a set goal, they’re the two things that we need to strive towards and better ourselves to achieve,” he said.

With a promising future ahead, Ryan does not forget where his success first came from and the people who supported him in his journey.

“I can put a lot of that [my success] down to my upbringing and how well my parents have done with me … It’s good to know that strong base is coming to who I am today,” Ryan said.

With his high level of determination for success, Ryan is currently training in Brisbane at the Bupa National Cricket Centre – National Performance Squad alongside fellow young and upcoming cricketers, readying himself for the cricket season ahead.

Ryan Hadley at U19s Cricket World Cup semi final: Australia v Afghanistan – Hagley Oval, Christchurch. Photo: Gettyimages

Author: Bianca Exall